(Anderson Silva pretending not to know the English for, “Don’t be scared, homie.” PicProps: UFC.com)
Tonight, the climax to one of the greatest UFC storylines in recent memory plays out before our very eyes. Will Chael Sonnen’s ceaseless trash talk inspire Anderson Silva to rediscover his roots as a remorseless ass-kicker? If Sonnen pulls off the miraculous upset, will he finally admit that he’s just been fucking with us these past few months, or will he confirm that he actually is suffering from early-onset dementia brought on by years of getting punched in the head? And after weeks of solid build-up can UFC 117 provide an emotionally satisfying conclusion?
Answers to the above questions are for us to know and you to find out … with live results and commentary beginning at 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST tonight. Be sure to hit refresh early and often to get the latest updates.
And we’re off …
Goldy and Rogan are cageside in beautiful Oakland. Rogan says Chael Sonnen has “hit Anderson Silva with a tsunami of trash talk,” and adds that Silva’s biggest weakness has always been grappling. I guess we’ll find out about that in a matter of hours. In a short preview of Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves they call Fitch “the ultimate grinder.” It’s a stacked card, Goldy says, then we head to the cage for Nelson vs. dos Santos …
Roy Nelson vs. Junior dos Santos
On the topic of Nelson’s physique, Rogan says “as unsightly as it may be, he uses it to his advantage in the cage” which is, I guess … a compliment? Nelson, who’s played it kind of cagey during the prefight trash talk about what his strategy will be, comes out to “Fat” by Weird Al. Dos Santos comes out to the theme from “Rocky.”
Nelson begins the fight coming forward, but covering up. Dos Santos misses a big left hook and an uppercut. Rogan describes EliteXC as “ultra-corrupt” as Nelson pushes dos Santos against the fence. Big Country manages to keep him there for nearly a minute, but eats a knee as they separate. Dos Santos lands a couple of uppercuts that have Roy scrambling for a takedown, but he can’t get it. Dos Santos is unloading on him, but Nelson absorbs it. “How many of these can the human skull take?” Rogan asks. Nelson seems to have weathered it, when dos Santos lands another big uppercut that floors him at 1:55. Nelson is back up, but only to eat some more shots. A big knee to the body from dos Santos inside the last minute. Two more punches pop his head up, but somehow Nelson is still there at the bell. That’s a borderline 10-8 round for dos Santos.
Nelson still appears game as they come out for the second. A running knee from dos Santos in the early going. Nelson lands a good winging punch and fails at another takedown attempt. Nelson is still pressing forward and lands a left hook that pushes dos Santos back but doesn’t really phase him. With three minutes left, dos Santos finds a home for a pair of hard body shots. Nelson shoots hard with 2:30 left and almost gets a takedown, but dos Santos fends it off again. Now dos Santos shoots for a TD and Nelson stuffs it. Dos Santos is cut under the right eye, but still controlling the bout. As he gets more and more sweaty, Nelson starts to resemble Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Hard jab by dos Santos just before the bell. Another round for Junior, 10-9.
Nelson is still walking forward, and eats a body kick for his trouble. With 30 seconds gone they exchange a flurry of punches. Another jaw-jacking uppercut from dos Santos. Nelson is breathing hard, and dos Santos gets a takedown with 3:20 left, but they work back to the feet quickly. Another flurry from dos Santos that doesn’t bother Nelson so much. With two minutes left, Nelson looks exhausted but he lands a snapping leg kick. Dos Santos potshots some punches with 1:30 on the clock. More body shots from dos Santos. And then a knee to the gut. Dos Santos stumbles Nelson with a two-punch combo with 20 seconds left, but somehow Big Country survives. Wow, that was a gutty performance.
Junior dos Santos def. Roy Nelson by unanimous decision.
Dos Santos stumbles through one of the UFC’s patently awkward post-fight interviews with a non-English speaker. And hey, there’s budding MMA superagent and hometown hero MC Hammer in the crowd.
A promo for UFC 118 makes it clear the UFC is comfortable with framing Randy Couture’s bout with James Toney as a referendum on MMA vs. boxing, even though nothing could be further from the truth. Couture shows up for an interview with Rogan dressed up like Roger Huerta and says he expects Toney to be “explosive early in the fight.” Really? Couture says he thinks we’ll see more pro athletes trying to transition to MMA in the future and mentions Herschel Walker as an example. Oooh, I bet the UFC isn’t thrilled about that.
Matt Hughes vs. Ricardo Almeida
Jesus, Almeida walks to the cage wearing a ballcap so big it makes him look like he’s about 10 years old. “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion is his walkout music of choice. Almeida has Renzo Gracie and UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar with him. Hughes comes out to the old standby “Country Boy Can Survive,” by Hank Jr. Say what you want about Hughes, but I still love this intro.
Hughes looks as awkward as ever on his feet and Rogan points out that he’s switched his stance back to an orthodox stance. Great, that always works out well. Almeida throws a couple of punches and a low kick. Then a high kick. Almeida is the much larger fighter and looks more comfortable on his feet. Hughes tries for a clinch with 3:10 left, but Almeida shakes him off. Good body shot from Almeida. No sign of a double-leg try yet from Hughes. Hughes lands a left hook that stumbles Almeida backward and Hughes rushes forward. He catches him in an odd-looking, arm-in front choke and renders Almeida unconscious within a few seconds.
Matt Hughes def. Ricardo Almeida via technical submission, 3:15, round one.
Clay Guida vs. Rafael dos Anjos
The crowd is chanting “Guida, Guida” before their golden boy even shows his face. And there he is, bouncing his way down the aisle wearing a killer retro-looking green Silver Star T-shirt. Greg Jackson and Jason Guida are on hand with The Carpenter. Old school Metallica playing on the PA.
Guida waves off dos Anjos’ attempt at touching gloves and dos Anjos lands an inside leg kick. Then a matching one from Guida. The two are throwing fast and furious punches, but not much is landing so far. Guida lands a shot that moves dos Anjos back. RDA with another inside kick. Then dos Anjos shoots for a takedown, but Guida stuffs it and reverses it, pushing dos Anjos against the cage working for a double. Guida is relentless digging for it and soon the crowd starts to boo. Really, dudes? Did you forget this is how Clay Guida fights? Dos Anjos lands a knee to the body as they work off the cage. Dos Anjos dives in for another takedown, but Guida rebuffs it quickly. Dos Anjos finally puts him down with 30 seconds left and lands a good punch as Guida gets to his feet just before the bell. A close round, 10-9 dos Anjos?
Both guys throw kicks inside the first minute and Guida tries a superman punch. Dos Anjos lands a body kick a Guida tries to counter with a punch. Guida lands a right. So far there is a lot of movement from both guys, but precious little is actually connecting. Dos Anjos seems to be trying to keep Guida at bay with kicks. Guida snags a nice takedown with 2:05 left. Dos Anjos tries briefly for an omoplata but gives up on it. Guida passes to half guard with a minute left. Guida is bleeding from somewhere. Guida postures up and lands an elbow inside the last 10 seconds. 10-9 Guida.
Dos Anjos misses an uppercut in the first minute and Guida shoots in on a single and slams dos Anjos to the mat. Guida moves quickly into half guard and lands some knees to the body. There’s the body-body-head combo from Guida that Goldy said he loved. After a few seconds of Guida trying to pull out of half guard, Dos Anjos taps out. At first it seems he did it for no discernable reason, but then it seems like maybe dos Anjos’ jaw was broken in the first round. Guida pressing down onto it with his shoulder probably didn’t feel too good.
Clay Guida def. Rafael dos Anjos via submission (injury), round 3.
Rogan interviews James Toney. As you might expect, it is half entertaining, half crazy and half totally unintelligible. Wait, three halves? That’s right, bitch, this is James Toney we’re talking about. At the end he reminds Couture to “pay his electric bill” or he might get his lights turned out. Clever.
Looks like we’re going to get Stefan Struve vs. Christian Morecraft from the prelims.
Morecraft takes Struve down in the early stages of round one and rains a series of left hands down on the beanpole heavyweight. Struve throws his legs up for a triangle and Morecraft barely avoids it. Morecraft drops some sloppy hammerfists and some more punches on Struve, who is starting to turn bright pink. Morecraft continues to work from the top, slamming Struve with punches from a standing position. Herb Dean is taking a good look at Struve here. Morecraft passes to mount with a minute left in the round. Struve rolls and tries for a heel hook, but Morecraft shakes it off. After they work to the feet, Morecraft lifts Struve off his feet with a guillotine, but Struve does not tap. There’s the bell, after a comprehensive ass-kicking by Morecraft.
Between rounds the doctor takes a hard look at Struve’s swollen lower lip, but they decide to let it go …
And it turns out to be a good decision, as Struve drops Morecraft with three punches to the face early in the second, then gets on top of him and pounds him out.
Stefan Struve def. Christian Morecraft via TKO, round 2.
Thiago Alves vs. Jon Fitch
Absent from Alves’ walk-in is the world famous American Top Team flag. Instead, they have a smaller, ATT logo that appears to be made out of cardboard. It doesn’t quite have the panache of the flag, but whatever. Rogan notes that after Alves weighed-in a half pound over for this fight, he didn’t even try to make the 170-pound limit during the extra time offered to him. So much for it being the easiest cut yet for Alves. Fitch comes out wearing what can only be described as the worst “TCB” all-over print T-shirt in history. Johnny Cash on the soundtrack, though.
Fitch has the homeless look pretty much down, appearing as if he and Forrest Griffin have the same stylist. They start out with some wild strikes and then Alves lands a snapping jab. Fitch tries a head kick. With 45 seconds gone, Fitch gets Alves to the mat and takes his back against the cage. Alves works to his feet, only to have Fitch drag him back down. After a minute or so, Alves forces a scramble and sweeps Fitch onto his back. Alves moves to half guard. Fitch works to replace his guard with 1:45 left and then Alves stands and invites him up. Fitch lands some decent knees in the stand-up. Then a couple of body shots. Alves stuffs a takedown attempt with 30 seconds left. Fitch lands another takedown with 10 seconds left, which probably seals the deal for him. 10-9 Fitch.
Fitch counters an Alves leg kick with a straight left. Fitch ducks under some strikes and gets a takedown inside the first 30 seconds. He winds up in Alves’ full guard. Alves attempts to get up against the fence, but Fitch ain’t having it. Alves gets up, gets yanked back to the mat. Goldberg says Fitch is “so good at embracing the grind.” Hey, Embracing the Grind Fight Gear, somebody get a trademark on that. With 2:25 left, Fitch puts Alves flat on the canvas and moves to half guard. From a standing position, he rains a few punches. Alves stands. Alves gets put back down. Alves manages to circle away and get some space. He tries a superman punches, then a punching combo. The round ends with the fighters press against the cage. 10-9 Fitch.
They exchange punches in the first 10 seconds. Another superman punch try from Alves, who seems determined to work his game here. Goldy describes Alves as “very massively skilled.” Fitch shoots, but Alves shakes him off. Alves comes forward with a combo, but it only allows Fitch to get a hold of him. They go back to the mat and Fitch gets the mount. Fitch locks up a body triangle and lands some punches. Fitch working for the rear naked choke, attempting to soften Alves with some light strikes. Alves rolls over and manages to get top position, but Fitch still has him locked in the triangle. Alves gets back to the feet just before the horn, but can’t do anything with it. 10-9 Fitch.
Jon Fitch def. Thiago Alves by unanimous decision.
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen comes out to both kinds of music, country and western. He looks maybe a little bit nervous. Silva walks out in a white gi looking calm and composed. He receives a mixed welcome from the Oakland crowd. We’ve got two certifiably crazy people in the cage here, kids. Let’s see what happens …
Sonnen takes the middle of the cage and throws a low kick, Anderson catches his second try and fires a punch. Silva catches another kick by Sonnen and he does a somersault to get away from it. Sonnen stumbles Silva with a punch and Silva shoots for a takedown, but Sonnen works his way to his feet. Another punching combo lands for Sonnen and another. For a second it looks like Silva is content to let Sonnen punch him in the face. Sonnen gets a takedown and moves to half guard. Sonnen drops a couple of elbows. Sonnen lands a series of punches and Silva rolls to give up his back. Then tries to get guard back. With 1:37 left Sonnen stands and lands a big shot to Silva’s face. Silva gets his guard back. Sonnen stands and lands more punches. Back in full guard Sonnen lands another series of punches until the bell. 10-9 Sonnen.
Silva fires some punches and a big leg kick to open the second. Silva tries to throw a jumping knee and Sonnen puts him back down with 30 seconds gone in the round. Sonnen moves to half guard. Anderson is just holding on from the bottom and Sonnen starts boxing his ears. Seriously. Sonnen lands a couple more punches. Silva tries to strike from his back, but Sonnen is smothering him from the top. Silva gets wrist control, but Sonnen lands an elbow with two minutes left. With 1:15 on the clock, Silva flirts with an arm bar, but it’s not there. Sonnen lands another elbow. Silva tries to scramble up an Sonnen takes his back. Silva grabs a kimura, but Sonnen defends it. Sonnen lands another punch before the bell. 10-9 Sonnen.
Silva comes out with a big left hook that lands. Sonnen continues to stalk. Silva throws a spinning back kick. Sonnen dives in for another double and gets it against the fence. Sonnen takes Silva’s back and lands some knees to the thigh. Then a series of right hands to the side of the head. Silva rolls and gets back to guard. With 2:45 Sonnen continues to smother Silva, who locks on a defensive body triangle. Sonnen lands another group of short shots to Silva’s head. Silva continues to look for submissions, but Sonnen is controlling the hips. Sonnen lands a looping punch and a few more hammerfists with 30 seconds left. He continues to chip away at Silva to the bell. 10-9 Sonnen.
Silva lands some strikes to open the fourth, including a short elbow, then a kick. Sonnen might be in trouble. Sonnen stuffs a takedown and Sonnen pulls him into guard. That was certainly Silva’s best exchange of the fight, but Sonnen manages to get his hands around the hips and get back to the top. Sonnen lands three more right hands over the top of Silva’s defenses. The challenger grinds on him with an elbow. Silva tries for a butterfly sweep, but can’t get it. Sonnen continues to drop punches. He postures up and throws more strikes. Silva with a few more elbows from the bottom, but mostly he’s got nothing off his back. Sonnen is cut from Silva’s elbows. Zero stand-ups so far in the first four rounds. 10-9 Sonnen.
Sonnen has a big cut in the corner of one eyebrow as we start the final round. Sonnen flicks a jab but gets his takedown stuffed. Sonnen blasts Silva with a punch on the feet and puts it back on the mat. Sonnen locks on a side choke, but can’t quite get it. Silva works back to guard. Now the announcers say it was a slip that put Silva down. Sonnen lands a few more punches and hammerfists. At the halfway point, it’s more of the same from Sonnen. Silva gets wrist control on one arm and Sonnen is content to land hammerfists. Anderson Silva throws up a triangle choke and catches Sonnen. Sonnen taps once and referee Josh Rosenthall moves in to stop it. The replay makes it look weird, but that Sonnen probably (maybe?) was tapping.
Anderson Silva def. Chael Sonnen by submission (triangle choke), Round 5.
Wow. There’s going to be some shit over this. That was a weird stoppage. In the postfight interview, Silva says he’s not going to make any excuses, but he suffered a rib injury during training. So, basically he’s going to make excuses. Sonnen says: “I came in second, there’s nothing I can say.” He doesn’t seem to be protesting the stoppage. Still, I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but Silva didn’t deserve to win that fight and I actually feel bad for Chael Sonnen.
Anyway, that’s all she wrote. I’m going to have to sleep on this one and get back to you in the morning.